The first of November! The lure of the Feast!
A couple of years ago, Kim Severson and Julia Moskin, food writers at the New York Times, staged a battle: Turkey vs. Sides. Which brought more happiness to the Thanksgiving table, the noble bird or its myriad accompaniments?
Now I ‘m not one to take sides; I want ‘em all. One is incomplete without the others. But, if pressed to choose, I must say that I’d rather have a table full of exciting side dishes than a roast turkey. And, for the vegetarian in our household, there’s no contest. The sides have it.
With the onset of each holiday season, I know that there will be constants–certain beloved dishes that appear during this time, and vanish until the next. (Like Cornbread Dressing. Cranberry-Walnut Relish. Pumpkin Pie. )
But I like change. With side dishes, those supporting players to the Big Feast, there’s the opportunity to introduce variety. It’s good to bring something new to the table, while still upholding treasured traditions.
Today I’m sharing two terrific side dishes that I made recently for our potluck. I want to put them out there early, for your consideration. Both use lesser known, seasonal ingredients. Either would bring happiness to the holiday table.
First up: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Red Pear, Shallots, Sage, and Hazelnuts. I have Gigi to thank for this one. Adding Red Pear to the mix is pure inspiration, a wonderful flavor balance, and color-wise, a true holiday beauty.
I’ve roasted and sauteed everything in olive oil. You could make this with butter–which would become brown butter—and I wouldn’t blame you for that. Brown butter!
But, the shallots, toasty hazelnuts, sage, and fragrant pear bites bring a rich harmony of flavors to the brussels, in a more healthful way.
I know what you’re thinking. For a long time, I wasn’t crazy about brussels sprouts either. This dish could change your mind. Even those who usually turn their noses up at the very thought of “little cabbages” relished the savory-sweet combination.
Next up: Roasted Baby Yukon Potatoes, Harukei Turnips, and Thyme
It’s been a while since I’ve written about these remarkable turnips that Tally grows each year. Petite, white, and earthy-sweet, they defy all my former notions and experiences with the lowly turnip. ( I have bitter, bitter associations with ill-prepared gratins from my youth.)
Harukeis are naturally mild and sweet. Roasting only coaxes that out all the more. And they pair beautifully with potatoes.
When simply roasted in a little olive oil with buttery yukon golds and fresh thyme, the turnips burst with juicy sweetness.
I first made this dish for the Fretboard Journal Local Farm Feast last month. Another time, I added roasted cauliflower and onions to the batch. This made a very tasty melange, and visually worked as an “all white” vegetable dish.
In the process, I realized that I liked the roasted harukei turnips better than the potatoes. Kind of shocking, I know. I wished I had included more of them in the dish, and fewer spuds. That’s how delicious they are.
BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH RED PEAR, SHALLOTS, HAZELNUTS, AND SAGE
1 lb. fresh Brussels Sprouts, washed, dried, ends trimmed
1 large Red Pear, firm but ripe–cored (not peeled) and diced medium
2 medium, (or 1 large) Shallots, diced small
1/2 cup chopped Hazelnuts
1 bundle fresh Sage leaves
Place brussels sprouts on a baking pan and lightly coat with olive oil.
Season with salt and pepper and place in a preheated 325 degree. Allow to slow roast for about 25 minutes. Outer leaves will get crispy-brown, and the interior will be firm but tender.
In a deep saucepan set on medium heat, saute shallots in olive oil ( 2-3 T) until translucent—about 2 minutes. Stir in hazelnuts and sage leaves and saute a couple of minutes longer. Add diced pear, and gently stir. The pear will break down slightly, and get coated with the shallot-hazelnut mixture.
When the sprouts are roasted, remove from the oven and add to the saucepan. Stir in, combining all the elements well. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.
ROASTED BABY YUKON POTATOES, HARUKEI TURNIPS, AND THYME
2 lbs. small Yukon Gold Potatoes
1 bunch Harukei Turnips
several sprigs Fresh Thyme
Because these yukons were small, I was able to roast the turnips and potatoes together. But it is also fine to roast them on separate sheet pans, and then combine, post-roast.
Place turnips and potatoes on a sheet pan, and lightly coat them with olive oil. Season them with salt, black pepper, and the leaves from several sprigs of fresh thyme.
Place in a preheated 375 degree oven and roast for 40 minutes. Check on them, about half-way, shaking them in the pan, and rotating in the oven. Test for doneness.